Liftoff of the GSLV-F14 launcher carrying the INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite on Feb. 17, 2024. Credit: ISRO

HELSINKI — India successfully launched a new generation meteorological satellite early Saturday.

The 51.7-meter-long, three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) lifted off at 7:05 a.m. Eastern Feb. 17 (1205 UTC; 5:35 p.m. local) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

The INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite separated from the launcher around 19 minutes later. The satellite entered geosynchronous transfer orbit and subsequent orbit-raising maneuvers will take the satellites to 74 degrees East in the geostationary belt, 35,786 kilometers above the equator.

“I’m very happy to announce the successful accomplishment of the mission GSLV-F14/INSAT-3DS,” said S Somanath, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in remarks after the launch. “The spacecraft has been injected into a very good orbit.”

“Let me congratulate the teams who built the payloads, the satellite and also the launch vehicle for this acceleration this year,” S Somanath added.

Tomy Joseph, mission director, said that the GSLV rocket, dubbed “Naughty Boy” in reference to six of 15 of its previous launches ending in failure or partial failure, has now become “a very obedient and disciplined boy.”

INSAT-3DS is the sixth in the INSAT series and had a mass at liftoff of 2,274 kilograms. INSAT-3DS carries four payloads: a six-channel multispectral imager, a 19 channel sounder payload, Data Relay Transponder (DRT) and Satellite Aided Search & Rescue transponder (SAS&R). The mission is funded by India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). The satellite is expected to operate until at least 2030.

Mission objectives encompass monitoring Earth’s surface and oceans across meteorological spectral channels, providing vertical atmospheric profiles of meteorological parameters, collecting and disseminating data from Data Collection Platforms (DCPs), and offering Satellite Aided Search and Rescue services, according to ISRO.

These goals aim to enhance understanding of environmental dynamics, improve weather forecasting, ensure efficient data usage, and support emergency response efforts through advanced satellite technology.

The launch of INSAT-3DS was India’s second of 2024, following the launch of the XPoSat X-ray astronomy satellite Jan. 1 (UTC).

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) announced earlier that month that the country is aiming to conduct 30 launches across a 15-month period. India’s busiest year for launch so far was eight launches conducted across 2023. 

Among the key tasks of the year will be a series of test flights for its Gaganyaan human spaceflight program. ISRO launched an uncrewed capsule on a suborbital flight to test its launch abort system in October last year.

The agency will also launch the European Space Agency’s Proba 3 dual coronagraph and occulter technology demonstration spacecraft late in the year.

ISRO announced Feb. 16 that its Cartosat-2 high-resolution imaging satellite had reentered Earth’s atmosphere Feb. 14. ISRO said it had lowered the satellite’s orbit from 635 km to 380 km by early 2020 to underscore the agency’s commitment to sustainable space exploration.

Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for SpaceNews. Andrew has previously lived in China and reported from major space conferences there. Based in Helsinki, Finland, he has written for National Geographic, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, Sky...